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An Inconvenient Convent - the new Abbot Peter mystery

Posted by Simon Parke, 25 October 2022, 7.51pm

‘An Inconvenient Convent’, the eighth and latest in the Abbot Peter series, is set in a convent by the sea, the Community of the Holy Fire.

The investigating team will be familiar to readers. DI Shah and the abbot are back together; though the investigation, and love, will take them apart.

Is this their last case together?

We also meet a new character, Hildegard, the abbess of the convent. She’s based on the remarkable real-life 11th century abbess, Hildegard of Bingen.

I’d been researching her life, with a view to writing a novel about her, as I did with Julian of Norwich. In fact, I started the story and even liked the opening scene.

But in the end, I’ve chosen to bring her, and her distinctive voice, into the 21st century where it has much to say. Among other things, Hildegard was an early and poetic ‘Green’ and a huge influence on many campaigners down the years.

As she says in this story, almost quoting her exactly, ‘Green is not a hobby for fanatics. It is the warp and weft of all that is!’

So, this is a murder mystery with an environmental theme; and also, perhaps, a political one, with the entitlement of power to the fore.

‘Entitlement is never having to say sorry’. And Louisa Knowle-Makepiece, the convent’s celebrity MP and fund raiser, is an all-too-familiar figure to us today.

Most of all, though, with a raging fire on its cover, I hope it’s a stonkingly good read for the dark winter months, as you plunge into the messy life of the Community of the Holy Fire, where not everything is as it seems.

And as I write that, I remember this was someone’s definition of a novel: ‘a story where not everything is as it seems’. So, I’m going with the literary flow here; and this lack of originality may hold me back from winning the Man Booker prize – a truth I can and must live with.

Apart from anything else, for someone to get to the top of the pile, there has to be someone else at the bottom, holding the whole thing up. Otherwise, the pyramid of success doesn’t work.

I will need strong shoulders, I grant you. The top is a treasured space.

Meanwhile, back at the convent, it’s a nasty murder, I can’t deny. But then there really isn’t a nice one. All murder brings inner carnage and an eternal scream of loss and regret as the guilty Macbeth discovered.

Whence is that knocking? –
How is it with me, when every noise appals me?
What hands are here! Ha, they pluck out mine eyes.
Will all great Neptune’s ocean wash this blood
Clean from my hand?

Probably not.

And as the abbot enters the cloistered convent world, suddenly he is back in an old way of life he imagined he’d left behind. How will he cope? And why isn’t DI Shah answering her phone? And what’s that strange sound in the chapel? And why’s the bishop choosing to sleep on the sofa? And what exactly happened in the summer house? And is the cook’s secret important?

Happy reading! Happy Christmas present buying! And all reviews gratefully received. Like this one in the Church Times:

‘To a long list of much-loved detective pairings, which includes Holmes and Watson, Poirot and Hastings and Morse and Lewis, we must now add Abbot Peter and Tamsin Shah.’

Or, ‘Abbot Peter is a true original’ Daily Mail

‘Highly original… very different from most detective stories’ Clerical Detectives

‘Parke evokes the creepiness of the setting marvellously. He has a stunning ear for the way people actually speak.’ Fiona Hood,

All well and good. Though really, the only review that matters is yours…

Should you wish, you can order here, though other outlets are available: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Inconvenient-Convent-Abbott-Peter-Mystery/dp/1786772140/

 
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